Kathy Talbott, a cheerful, blond, middle-aged woman decked out in athletic clothes, held up a bag as she walked out of recently opened CBD Comfort Zone in Montrose.
“I ended up buying something,” Talbott said gleefully.
Inside the bag — emblazoned with a logo featuring the San Gabriel mountains — was tea infused with Cannabidiol, or CBD, which is the nonpsychoactive ingredient in cannabis plants.
According to Talbott, it helps her sleep and quells her anxiety. It’s not easy taking care of a sibling who’s in a bad way, she began to tell store owner Stu Meyer.
During his three decades working in software, “people were like, ‘I don’t want to tell this guy anything. I might lose my job,’ but here, people just tell me their whole life story,” La Crescenta resident Meyer said at his store.
“It’s so much more rewarding because I’m taking away pain and anxiety” — as opposed to replacing personnel with technology, he added.
A self-described “modern-day medicine man,” Meyer came to CBD for the same reasons as many of the customers he now seeks to guide.
In 2015, Meyer underwent a nine-hour surgery to remove a cancerous tumor from his brain. Following the surgery, he endured dozens of radiation and chemo treatments that left him with severe nerve pain.
The pain led to a cascade of other problems, including difficulty sleeping. For two years, he turned to prescription opioids before working for five months with an addiction specialist to get off of them.
“I knew there was an answer out there,” Meyer said. “I knew there was something natural for me.”
Applying skills he learned in software, Meyer began doing intensive research and started spending hundreds of dollars on CBD products.
Most of them didn’t work. But one — a cream he now sells — eventually did.
Still, it wasn’t cheap. Motivated by his several-hundred-dollar-a-month habit, Meyer leaned again on skills gleaned from his professional background and began infiltrating companies, including manufacturers and equipment makers. He even went on a fake job interview.
Those relationships have allowed him to offer products at what he said are lower rates than many other stores.
But that doesn’t mean there isn’t competition.
In just a several block radius, there are at least three other stores that sell CBD. On Honolulu Avenue, where the store is located, there are at least two, including Montrose Vitamins and CBD and Tribe to Table.
According to Meyer, his store, which opened Sept. 1, differentiates itself by selling only CBD products.
“It’s more of a spa vibe,” said La Crescenta native Kaley Pomeroy, a recent college grad who helped Meyer with the store design. “We want people to feel soothed when they walk in.”
With deep blue walls and wooden display tables, it exudes a sort of Anthropolgie-of-CBD-stores vibe.
Meyer is also often on-hand to connect customers to the products he thinks will be best for them.
Typically, that starts with an interactive tour. First, new customers are led to creams and are given the opportunity to rub some on aching joints and other sore spots.
Then they head to the tinctures, a liquid CBD product administered orally with a dropper. Customers are welcome to “tinc up,” as Meyer calls it.
For those looking for something a little less conventional, there are bath bombs, face cream, gummies and even items made specifically for four-legged friends.
Area resident Kandiss Carvalho said she’d long been taking CBD for sleep issues, but recently became turned on to a cream sold at CBD Comfort Zone.
“It’s some kind of magic,” said Carvalho, who had stopped by the store to pick up several jars for friends in her CrossFit class.
Although Meyer said business has been good, stigma persists.
It took him nearly four months to find a place in the city that would lease the space to him. Once he found one, he had to do all the necessary upgrades himself, he said.
Marijuana is legal in California but illegal federally. CBD is legal to purchase if it contains less than .3% THC, or the psychoactive ingredient in cannabis plants.
Glendale does not permit marijuana or CBD dispensaries to operate in the city, according to Glendale city spokeswoman Eliza Papazian.
“The city is aware of the confusion that exists regarding CBD. However, this does not change the city’s position,” Papazian said in a text message.
As regulation at all levels of government fluctuates, the city is determining its ability to enforce, she added.
It was illegal to grow any hemp in the United States until what’s known as the 2018 Farm Bill changed that.
Before it passed, products were often made using hemp from China and other parts of Asia. Allowing domestic growth has improved the quality and potency of CBD products significantly, Meyer said.
Even though people told Meyer he was “crazy,” for opening a brick-and-mortar store, he said he hopes to open a couple more in the future.
Correction: this article previously stated that CBD was illegal federally. Under federal law, it is legal to purchase if it contains less than .3% THC.